Sunday, May 31, 2009


Matt Pin was airlifted from Vietnam at the age of 10 and adopted by an American family. He is now in seventh grade and has adjusted well to his new family. He remembers the early adoption classes and meetings when he was learning to speak English, and he's glad they helped him remember the customs and traditions of his culture.

His American parents now have a biological son, but Matt has always felt loved and appreciated. The downside is that Matt also remembers Vietnam. He hasn't forgotten the sounds, the smells, and the horrors of war. He knows his father was an American soldier, but he's not sure why he left his mother behind. Should he want to find this missing father or just put it all in the past? He knows his mother told him she loved him and that was why she sent him away, but how do you give up someone you love?

What haunts him the most, is the younger brother he left behind. Matt can't find the words to share the tragic story that separated him from the toddler. His loving American parents hope time will heal the many wounds created by the awfulness of war. Their encouragement along with that of another Vietnam vet, the game of baseball, and Matt's interest in music work together to start the healing process.

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES is the first novel for author Ann E. Burg. Written in verse, the spare language brings focus to the raw emotions felt by all the characters. Burg examines the effects of war from many vantage points as she involves her readers in this turbulent time. Even readers without a connection to this controversial war will come away with an understanding of the widespread damage done when war is chosen over peace.

DESTROY ALL CARS by Blake Nelson

A junior in high school without the burning desire to possess and drive his own car? Yep, that's James Hoff. He believes cars are part of what is wrong in this world focused on consumerism and material wealth. He'll walk to the mall and bike to school, and he doesn't understand how everyone else can't see how they are contributing to the destruction of the planet.

James is a bit of an outcast. He shuns consumer goods as much as possible, choosing to wear old clothes, worn-out tennis shoes, even going so far as to cut the elbows out of his sweater to make it look even older and more worn. True, this earns him the odd comment or casual sneer from his classmates, but James does have friends who appreciate his different opinions, and he even had Sadie as his girlfriend for a while.

Sadie has her own set of "causes" like saving the whales and running the canned food drives for the hungry. Unfortunately, she left James for Will, but rumor has it that she's broken up with Will recently, making James reconsider his feelings for her. She seems interested in renewing their friendship, but James is sort of hoping for more.

Problems on the girlfriend front are just the tip of the iceberg for James. Parental pressure has been increasing recently as well. He's never really cared much for his father, and when the man left a few years back it seemed that maybe he and his mother would be better off without him. Unfortunately, he returned.

Now that James is a junior, his father is asking the college questions. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? James has been thinking maybe college isn't for him, at least not right now. His father definitely has other plans. In an effort to convince James college is the path to choose, his father offers to buy him a car as soon as he applies to a college. How can his father know so little about his oldest son? Why would someone who believes in the destruction of all cars actually want one?

Blake Nelson works his literary magic as he creates the perfect picture of teenage turmoil. Using dialogue, journal entries, and Junior AP essay assignments, he reveals the world of James Hoff. Clever, witty, sarcastic, moody, love struck, and confused are just a few of the adjectives that will come to mind as readers enter his world. DESTROY ALL CARS offers an unforgettable, roller-coaster ride through one teen's junior year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


CATCHING FIRE (Hunger Games series #2)

by Suzanne Collins

This one is not out until September, but I can't wait. My students will not stop asking when it comes out. Asking won't make come out any faster, but they refuse to believe it. Hurray! Please!

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER by Ann Haywood Leal

Harper Lee Morgan was named after the author of her mother's favorite book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. She has grown up hearing her mother read the book aloud - 36 times in fact if the tally marks on the kitchen wall are accurate.

For a while it's just been Harper, her mother, and her little brother Hemingway (Hem), at least since her father up and left them. They used to be a happy family. They didn't have a lot, but they loved each other and made do. But after baby Flannery died, things were never quite the same.

Harper loves school and is determined that this year she will participate in the local poetry contest. Writing poetry is like breathing for Harper. She dreams of getting up in front of the crowd and reading her poems into the microphone for all to hear. Just when she thinks this year it will be possible, the landlady throws all their belongings out into the front yard. She says they are way behind in their rent, and she has more reliable tenants waiting in line.

Moving isn't unusual. Since her father left and her mother has been working whatever jobs she can to make ends meet, they've had to do without, but moving into a rundown, nearby motel changes everything. Harper has to stay in their room and keep an eye on Hem while her mother looks for work. That means no school and probably no poetry contest.

It seems like the end of the world until Harper gets acquainted with the other folks who live in and around the motel. There's Randall and his sister Lorraine. Lorraine stopped talking a while back. She may be quiet, but she's awfully nice. Harper is surprised when she learns they don't actually live at the motel, but instead in a make-shift tent community hidden beyond the Knotty Pine Luxury Cabins.

Harper and Hem also become fast friends with Dorothy, a woman in a wheelchair who owns the property around the motel. She is the original Pine of the Knotty Pine Luxury Cabins and knew them when there were comfy little separate cabins and not a bunch of rundown motel rooms all hooked together.

The life that Harper leads would wear most people down, scraping by with a few changes of clothes, occasional hot showers, and living mostly off of peanut butter sandwiches. However, Harper has always made the best of things, and with the love of her mother and brother and her new friends, she seems to keep her chin up and keep a positive view of the world.

Ann Haywood Leal's novel illustrates the fate of far too many people in today's society. Far too many families are working hard but never finding a way to get ahead. Harper's determination and creativity help this family carry on through the toughest of times.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I don't often read "grown-up" books, but I had to get my hands on an Elizabeth Berg book. She is coming to visit my local public library on June 20.

It is a really BIG deal because our town is a really little town, so the fact that she is coming here is HUGE!

THE PULL OF THE MOON is an inspiring book about one woman's journey into the world beyond middle age. She turns 50 (personal experience says that is NOT old) when she decides to go on a one-woman road trip. The journey, along with the letters she writes daily to her husband and the journal she keeps, helps her come to terms with the whole getting older thing.

It's an excellent book, and I can't wait to hear Elizabeth Berg in personal and shamelessly ask her to sign my copy.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PURPLE HEART by Patricia McCormick

Going to war was a first choice for Matt Duffy, but it seemed like the most sensible. He hadn't done that great in school so college for him didn't really make sense. On the other hand, his little sister was a good student and joining the army would provide the necessary funds to send her to college when the time came.

Whatever his reason for joining up, Matt found himself in the middle of Iraq doing the patriotic thing for his country. Even though they warned the young soldiers during basic training, he was surprised by the heat, the noise, and the people. There were slow days with routine missions; welcome days after some of the scary attacks Matt had witnessed. Recently they'd lost their squad leader, a fellow named Benson. Amazing that that is one of the few things Matt can remember as he wakes up and finds himself in a hospital bed answering questions from a man in scrubs standing at the foot of his bed.

When Matt begins to ask questions of his own, he learns that when he and his partner Justin followed an insurgent into a dead-end alley, there was an explosion and he suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury). With the exception of a weakened right leg, everything else seems to be in working order. Doctors are prescribing rest and saying he'll be back with his unit in no time.

With time to think, Matt is trying to remember just exactly what happened. As events of the attack begin to come back to him, he realizes he may have been responsible for something terrible. How can he bring back the memories and does he really want to remember?

Patricia McCormick shares the life of an American soldier in Iraq. YA novels dealing with the Iraq War are beginning to appear on bookstore shelves, and PURPLE HEART offers readers a chance to experience the war through the eyes of a young soldier trying to make sense of why he is fighting and whose lives he is effecting in this controversial war. McCormick reveals not only the point of view and mind-set of American troops, but also a glimpse of the life of the regular Iraqi citizen trying to cope in a country at war. Teens thinking about military service, teens that have family and friends stationed in Iraq, or teens just curious about the distant place they hear about on the news will all benefit from and appreciate the service and story of Matt Duffy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

BREATHLESS by Lurlene McDaniel

Cancer is terrible, but when it strikes a young, active body, it seems especially horrific. That's the case with high school student Travis Morrison. One minute he's a vibrant, healthy teen, and the next he's struck down by the devastating disease.

One sunny afternoon at the lake, Travis, two friends, Cooper and Darla, and sister Emily are enjoying a picnic and a swim. Travis tears up a rocky path beside the lake thinking he'll show off a bit by making a high dive from a nearby cliff. Since he's a champion platform diver, it should be a breeze.

Just short of the edge he is struck by a sharp pain in his upper thigh, but he's not about to let that stop him. His friends watch as he begins his dive. When he hits the water, he hears his leg crack, and the pain he feels is incredible. Cooper shouts for the girls to call the hospital and bring the car as he carries Travis from the lake.

How does a healthy, in-shape champion diver break his leg doing a simple dive in the local lake? Multiple examinations and medical tests later, doctors announce that Travis has bone cancer, and a tumor in his upper thigh weakened the bone causing the break. That announcement changes life for everyone.

Lurlene McDaniel tackles the subject of euthanasia in her latest novel BREATHLESS. Using Travis, his best friend Cooper, girlfriend Darla, and his sister Emily, McDaniel explores the emotional and ethical issues of this sensitive subject from a variety of view points. To say this novel is a real page-turner is an understatement. I truly could not put it down, and it has been on my mind ever since I finished the final page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


ANGRY MANAGEMENT by Chris Crutcher

Release date - June 30, 2009

I haven't found anything about the details of this book, but I always eagerly anticipate new books by Chris Crutcher.

He gets a lot of unfair criticism from adults - mostly adults who don't think teens can handle the tough stuff his books cover. Personally, I think Crutcher fills an important place in YA lit by giving kids a chance to experience the hard knocks in life through the safety of the pages in his books rather than in real life like many unfortunate teens.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Fans of American/Michigan Chillers are sure to enjoy Doc Wilde's adventures. DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM is perfect for action-loving readers in the middle grade age group. Doc Wilde teams up with son Brian and daughter Wren for a wild experience in the jungles of South America.

The action starts high on the side of a skyscraper when creepy, crawly looking frogs plaster themselves to the window of the family offices. Are these bloated monsters related to the disappearance of the kids' Grandfather? All they can hope to do is gather a specimen or two and use scientific research to test out their theory.

Capturing one of the creatures puts first Brian and then his father in near-death situations. Using cool James Bond type special effects, Brian dangles high over the streets of the city and attempts to pry the sticky, icky frogs from the skyscraper window. When things go heart-stoppingly wrong and it seems almost guaranteed that Brian's life is over, his father sweeps in to the rescue.

The action doesn't stop there as the family packs their scientific bag of tricks and heads to the tiny, mysterious South American country of Hidalgo. Even using their vast research capabilities, they are only able to discover the bare minimun about the place. But all the information they have about their missing Grandfather points in that direction.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM offers non-stop excitement, terrific special effects, and tons of science/geek information. Just over 180 pages with 60 chapters perfect for short reading stints, this book promises to be a hit with the younger tween set.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

THE ROAR by Emma Clayton

THE ROAR is the latest in a new trend toward futuristic YA novels. Like THE HUNGER GAMES and GONE, the setting is the future after the world has been changed by time and the mistakes of humankind. It's about survival, and teens play a significant role.

Mika and Ellie are siblings split apart by conditions beyond their control. Everyone but Mika believes that Ellie is dead. Something tells him that if he can just figure it out, he might be able to save her. When he gets the chance to compete in a special video game competition, he thinks it might provide just the opportunity he needs.

In a future world populated by haves and have nots, Mika and his parents become part of a sinister scheme to control individuals through programs and chemicals advertised to create healthy and more intelligent young people. Can Mika resist the brain-washing and use his skills to learn what is necessary to rescue Ellie and save his family or will they become part of a controlled society?

This edge-of-your-seat first novel by Emma Clayton will captivate readers from the very first Pod Fighter flight. Although almost 500 pages, the short chapters and non-stop action make this a fun, fast read.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The Top Readers for March's Reading Month (71 students in grades 5-8) have suggested these great books. These are students from a Middle School in Michigan, and together they read a total of 16,778,719 words during the month of March.
Here's the list:
39 CLUES series

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Don't know much about KILLER PIZZA by Greg Taylor, but I like the title, the cover, and this brief summary from Barnes & Noble.

"Combine monster-hunting with pizza making, and you have the perfect recipe for a killer summer!"

Release date - May 26- 2009.


After recently finishing WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson and sharing it with several of my 8th grade students, I was interested to read Anderson MySpace blog yesterday. Evidently, the book has sparked interest and criticism due to its subject matter.

This article was linked on Anderson's blog. I popped over and read the article. My personal opinion about the comments made are that people don't give teens enough credit. Many of the books I make available to my students are about controversial and sometimes "heavy" subjects. My thinking is that when exposed to difficult subjects and shown the tragic consequences through YA literature, teens can experience through the lives of characters and learn important lessons, thus avoiding major mistakes in their own lives.

Today I asked my 70 eighth graders what they thought about the topic. Their overwhelming response was that they don't appreciate being treated like they can't handle serious issues. Many of them commented that they thought it was ridiculous for adults to assume that because a teen reads a book involving drugs, drinking, anorexia, etc. that the teen will be influenced to experiment with that sort of risky behavior. Reading provides a safe way to learn from the mistakes of others.

The conclusion - Chill out critics of YA lit. Give the teens some credit for reading and then thinking for themselves!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Here's a book I'm anxious to read, especially since I'm starting to see some great reviews posted by a number YA bloggers.

ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen

Release date June 16 (Hopefully, my first official summer read.)

Summary courtesy of

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.


Orca Book Publishers is a group I've mentioned in several posts in the past. I've had the chance to read and review numerous titles. Most are aimed at YA readers with lower reading levels. The subjects featured in the short (usual just over 100 pages) are, to quote several popular TV shows, "ripped from the headlines" making them high interest and quite appealing for reluctant readers.
Here are some brief words about the most recent titles I've had the pleasure to read.
BACK by Norah McClintock

A young man just released from prison has a neighborhood upset and ready for revenge. Jojo has been nothing but trouble from an early age, and when he beat Eden Withrow within an inch of his life, he became the most unpopular guy around. Most folks don’t think the two year sentence he served was nearly long enough.

Ardell, Eden’s younger brother, can’t stand to see Jojo living back across the street. His brother has been in a coma since the attack and is not likely to recover. How can Jojo return to the neighborhood and pick up life where he left off? Ardell is determined to make him pay.

RILEY PARK by Diane Tullson

Corbin and Darius are close friends. They are into the party scene and spend considerable time at Riley Park. This is the story of the last party they attended and its tragic end.

There was the usual drinking and stunting that fateful night. Corbin remembers their daring jump from high on the cliff into the lake. It was a thrill they would be able to share for the rest of their lives. Who knew Darius would be dead by the next day?

RUNNING THE RISK by Lesley Choyce

Sean has lived a fairly low-key existence. He does well in school and has parents who support him and expect him to head to college when he finishes high school. They really don’t even care if he gets an after-school job, instead thinking he should focus his attention on success in school. But the lure of some extra pocket money and a little excitement lead him to a job at Burger Heaven.

Flipping burgers is not Sean’s dream job, but it’s keeping him busy. He never imagined it would offer the rush of adrenalin that would turn him into a risk-taker. It happened shortly after midnight on a Friday. The guys entered the restaurant wearing ski masks and carrying guns. When one of them stepped up to the counter and looked Sean in the eyes, something clicked and Sean seemed to know exactly what to do. He calmly handed them the money from each of the cash drawers. They accepted the cash and left only having fired a single shot at the ceiling.

IMPACT by James C. Dekker

IMPACT is the story of a family facing the violent death of their oldest son. Told from the point of view of younger son Jordan, the story reveals his guilt about the death of his older brother and the impact the event has on the young man’s parents.

Basically, the guilty parties have been apprehended and arrested, and now it’s time for the trial. Reliving the beating death of their son and brother is a horrific challenge. They want justice but they never imagined how slowly and painfully the wheels of justice would turn. Despite the identification of suspects, the gathering of evidence, the interviewing of witnesses, and preparing for trial, this family attempts to return to a normal life.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Katie misses her mother who recently died of cancer. She tries to find things around the house that help her feel close to her mother's spirit. As summer begins, Katie knows she will need something to keep her busy while her father, an art/painting restorer, works obsessively in his studio.

The answer comes in the form of a landscaping job at the Everlast estate.Working with the full-time groundskeeper and caretakers of the estate, Katie spends her daytime hours with her hands dirty and her brow sweaty. The work is tiring but strangely satisfying.

As she works, she begins to wonder about the strange stories told of Miss Martine Everlast and her reclusive lifestyle. The woman has been dead for some time, but the mansion is still cared for by a man known as Old Olson and a couple who have been employed there for years. When Katie and the others are assigned to excavate a hole in the garden, it seems some of the long buried secrets of Miss Martine might finally be uncovered.

The detective work that results helps give Katie yet another purpose during that long summer. Her frequent trips to the library to sift through boxes of what the librarian calls "local lore" occupies her scattered thoughts and gives her conversational material to distract her and her father as they deal with their grief. Understanding another family's secrets might make understanding her own family easier.

Beth Kephart, an accomplished author, takes readers into the lives of people who have suffered loss and are struggling to deal with the changes it brings to their lives. It is evident through Kephart's story that no two people grieve in the same way, yet dealing with loss is a universal issue. Using the backdrop of the local mystery adds a suspenseful twist to Katie's search to hold onto the memory of her mother.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Thanks to Danielle at the Book Blogger for this award!

This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! I'm going to pass this award on to some people I think fit this description perfectly. I'm going to pass this on to...

Another Book Read

Librarilly Blonde

Reviews of Young Adult Literature